Growing Gorgeous Gladiolus

There is nothing more beautiful in the summer than sword lilies (Gladiolus hybrid) in a vase or the garden. Their stately stalks of glowing, fragrant flowers come in an array of colors that just can’t be beat! Most gardeners grow them for cut flowers, but glads can also be carefully worked into summer flower borders for floral impact. There are also compact types suitable for border edges and even containers!

A Short History of Garden Gladiolus

Gladioli have bulbous root structures called corms that can easily be dug in fall for winter storage where they are not hardy.

Though Gladiolus species exist across much of the Old World, most garden gladioli originate from complex hybrids of numerous South African species–South Africa being the world center of Gladiolus diversity. World travelers and collectors brought the first South African specimens to Europe in the mid-1700s, and the earliest hybrids appeared by the early- to mid-1800s. Commercial nurseries continued developing their own hybrids (and do to this day), and the flower took off in popularity. By Victorian times, when meanings were attached to every flower, red gladiolus flowers signified love and passion, while pink ones meant femininity and motherly love.

Planting and Caring for Gladiolus

Byzantine sword lily is a beautiful species that is quite hardy.

Start planting gladioli a week after one’s last frost date (click here to determine your last frost date). Choose a sunny spot with fertile, well-drained soil that’s high in organic matter. To keep waves of these short-season flowers blooming from early summer on, plant more corms in two-week intervals until late June. Gladiolus have bulbous root structures called corms that need to be planted in 5- to 6-inch holes.  I always put some fertile, OMRI Listed Black Gold Natural & Organic Garden Soil and bulb fertilizer in the bottom of the hole to ensure good growth. Plant corms in rows 6 to 8 inches apart in a cutting garden or more closely in small groups of 5 to 9 corms mixed in with tall, bushy perennials to provide upright patches of bright color. Water evenly. Gladiolus do not like wet feet or parched soil conditions.

Glads are one of the most long-lasting cut flowers for bouquets, which is why commercial florists love them. They can last for a week or two in a vase. Pick them when the stems just start blooming and remove the lower leaves. Cut the stems diagonally with sharp shears, and put them in water fortified with cut-flower food. A tablespoon of fully sugared lemon-lime soda to a quart of water also works.

Some gladiolus are hardy but most are tender. Gently dig the corms of tender types up in fall when their leaves turn yellow.  You will find new, small cormlets attached to the main corm. Keep them all to grow new plants, though the cormlets will take a full second season to reach flowering size. Put the corms in a warm, dry place for 2 weeks until they are dry. For storage, hang them in mesh bags in a cool, dry place through winter.

Gladiolus to Grow in Gardens

Unsupported tall glads tend to fall over, which is why caging or staking is recommended.

There are several types of gladiolus for gardeners to grow.

Standard sword lily (Gladiolus hybrids, Zones 8-10) range in height from 3 to 6 feet tall and may have up to thirty 5- to 6-inch flowers on each stem. There are hundreds of exciting varieties. A festive choice is ‘Frizzled Coral Lace‘ with lacy coral-pink flowers that fit the name. The rose and peach ‘Guinea‘ is a very pretty extra tall one, and the breathtaking ‘Zizanie’ has large blooms in broken shards of red and white. When planting taller glads like these, choose a location with low wind and surround the plants with perennial or tomato cages to keep them upright. Staking also helps. Planting corms an inch deeper may also assist with stabilizing the plants.

Hooded sword lily (Gladiolus primulinus hybrids (syn. G. dalenii), Zones 8-10) are shorter (2-4 feet) and have an unusual floral shape, with the top petal of the flower hanging over the rest.  They have large blooms, often with ruffled edges, that come in lots of color variations. An extra pretty one is ‘Las Vegas‘ with its primrose-yellow flowers edged in scarlet. The bright red ‘Mirella‘ is another choice selection.

Dwarf sword lily (Gladiolus nanus hybrids, Zones 7-10) reach only 1.5 feet tall. They have large flowers in many colors, including lots of bicolors.  Some of the blooms are white with a rose teardrop on every petal.  Dwarf glads are hardier, so more gardeners can grow them as perennials. Try the super-compact varieties in the Glamini® Series. They are less hardy (Zones 8-10) but perfect for containers or summer borders.

Exceptional Gladiolus species are offered by some bulb companies. One of the best is the hardy Byzantine sword lily (Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus, Zones 6-10) with its upright swords of smaller, pink flowers. It is an heirloom that makes a fine addition to old-fashioned perennial gardens. Another to try is the large-flowered branched sword lily (Gladiolus ramosus, Zones 8-10). The brilliant pink, purple, and red ‘Vulcano‘ is spectacular! The hardiest of them all is the butterfly sword lily (Gladiolus papilio, Zones 3-6). Try the bold, deepest-red ‘Ruby‘ with its striking, butterfly-like blooms on 30-inch stems.

More Gladiolus Notes

Hooded gladioli have top petals that create a hood over the bloom.

About leaving corms in the ground, I have some standard red hybrid sword lilies that I did not get around to digging up last fall in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6 garden.  Imagine my surprise when they came up hale and hearty this spring.  I was really surprised! I have read that planting them in 7- to 8-inch holes will increase the chance of them coming back ni northern gardens. Some mulch over the top also helps.

Two excellent companies I recommend for buying glads are Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, and K. van Bourgondien. Glads are blooming bountifully now, but their corms are only sold in the spring, so look for them in March to have the pick of the best varieties. Gladiolus are some of the most gorgeous flowers in the summer garden, so plan to plant some in yours.

My Eight Favorite Summer Cut Flowers

A bouquet of summer dahlias and China asters will beautify any vase.

It’s always nice when the prettiest summer flowers can be cut and brought indoors for long-lasting arrangements. Aside from beauty and long vase life, several criteria make a flower suited to cutting. Long-stemmed, showy flowers of all sizes in unique and brilliant colors make the cut (pun intended). I also like heavy bloomers, so there are enough flowers to share with the bees and butterflies. Fragrance is another bonus.

My list contains a mix of flowering shrubs, perennials, and annuals that are most prevalent in the garden from mid to late summer. Some will flower until frost. When planting a garden with future cutting in mind, choose flowers that combine well in colors that please you.

Get Your Vases Ready

Match your flowers to your favorite vases and dot the house with them. (Image by Jessie Keith)

If you love cut flowers enough to grow them, you are likely an avid vase collector like me. My collection includes vases of all colors and sizes. (Click here to read my article about miniature flower arranging (many mini vases are shown).) It’s always good to have several large, medium, and small vases in various colors to show off your prized blooms. Just remember that colorful vases can compete with colorful arrangements. It’s better to choose flowers in monochromatic or neutral color schemes for multicolored vases. Neutral vases will best show off an extravagant collection of pretty flowers.

My Eight Favorite Summer Cut Flowers

All eight flowers are sun-lovers that grow best in fertile soil. Before planting, it helps to amend garden beds with Black Gold® Natural & Organic Flower and Vegetable Soil. Be sure to feed plants with a fertilizer formulated to encourage flowering to ensure full flowering.

China Asters

Pink and violet China asters should be a cutting garden staple.

Here’s a long-lasting cut flower that should gain newfound popularity. Few gardeners grow old-fashioned China asters (Callistephus chinensis) these days, but they are elegant, easy annuals that make fantastic arrangments. The Chrysanthemum-like blooms can be ruffled and double or starry and cactus-like, and their stems are long. Unlike Chrysanthemums, they come in shades of violet-blue and purple as well as pink, red, yellow, and white. The seed-grown annuals are a cinch to start in spring. Tower Custom Mix has ruffly blooms in many colors and long stems. ‘Starlight Light Pink‘, with its pale-pink quilled flowers, is also a good choice and has a very long vase-life. Caveats: these annuals cannot withstand drought and high heat.


Dahlias come in so many colors, shapes, and sizes, everyone loves them. (Image by Jessie Keith)

There is so much variation in dahlia flowers–from size to shape to color. The best for cutting must be long-stemmed, so plants should be 2-feet tall or more. My favorites have extra-large waterlily or cactus-type flowers reaching 6 to 12 inches across, but I also love the little guys with tiny pincushion blooms. Dahlias come in all colors of the rainbow except blue. Each year I try something new from one of my favorite sellers, Swan Island Dahlias. The 6 to 8 inch, soft orange blooms of ‘Honeymoon‘ caught my eye this year. Before planting dahlias, amend the soil with Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, which also comes in handy for packing the tuberous roots for winter storage. (Click here to watch a video all about dahlias.)


Here is my 2020 display of Cheyenne Spirit Mix coneflowers with my pink bigleaf hydrangeas in the background. It has been quite a spectacular season. (Image by Jessie Keith)

Fresh coneflowers last for up to a week in a vase, sometimes longer. There are so many different varieties (Echinacea hybrids) available in so many colors; it is hard to know what to pick. One of my favorite reds is Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit Mix, which comes in warm shades of red, orange, and yellow. My advice is to choose those with good hardiness that bloom for a long period and are reliably perennial. They are easy as pie to grow. Plant them in full sun and well-drained, amended soil, and you should be set. Always expect some seedlings the following year that you can move around or share with friends.


Gladiolus flowers are so colorful and cheerful!

Gladiolus (Gladiolus hybrids, Zones 8-10) are inexpensive and very rewarding. They are sold in spring as packaged bulbs (actually corms) that must be planted after frost. Plant each just 3 inches down and cover. Add a little peat moss and bulb food at planting time to help ensure success. By summer, each bulb will send up spikes of brilliant flowers that are long-lasting when cut. After blooming, they will not flower again, so it is good to plant many. Gladiolus are tender but can be grown in colder zones as long as the corms are dug in fall and stored in a cool, dry place over winter. Try the unusual varieties ‘Fringed Coral Lace‘, with its frilled coral flowers, and ‘Passos‘, which has white blooms splashed with plum purple. Both look lovely together.

Bigleaf Hydrangeas

Let’s Dance® Rhythmic Blue® has bluest flower clusters. (Image by Proven Winners)

Any hydrangea flower is good for cutting, but bigleafs (Hydrangea macrophylla, Zones 5-11) are very pretty and come in shades of blue, pink, purple, red, and white. Mine is bubblegum pink and flowers throughout the summer. It’s an old variety that was in my yard when I purchased my 1926 home, so I don’t know its name. There are lots of new spectacular varieties on the market, if you have space for a bushy shrub in your landscape or garden. Let’s Dance® Rhythmic Blue® is a reblooming bigleaf with large purplish-blue flower clusters that impress, and it just reaches 4 feet high.


Indian Summer gloriosa daisy has huge blooms.

Otherwise known as black-eyed-Susans, Rudbeckia are cut-flower staples. They bloom over a long period, last forever when cut, and there are many kinds. Most are hardy perennials, while others, such as gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) are short-lived perennials.

Gloriosas are some of the best for arranging because there are so many varieties. A classic that I have grown for over 25 years is ‘Indian Summer’, which has dark-eyed gold daisies that reach a whopping 6 to 9 inches across. The award-winner may even self-sow a little. Henry Eilers’ sweet coneflowers (Rudbeckia subtomentosaHenry Eilers’), with their matchstick yellow petals, are also pretty when cut.


A sunflower glows against a background of red dahlias.

You cannot go wrong with annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). They are toss-the-seeds-in-the-ground-and-grow annuals that never disappoint. The heavy-flowering ‘Italian White’ is one of my favorites because its smaller ivory sunflowers are so unusual. This year I also grew the award-winning ‘Soraya‘, which has orange petals and brown centers. Another benefit is that the flowers produce little pollen, which can be surprisingly messy on a table or tablecloth. If you want to really grow sunflowers like the pros plant those in the Pro Cut Series, which have no pollen and bloom profusely. Expect sunflowers to continue flowering into late summer or early fall; be sure to let a few flowers to go to seed to naturally feed the birds. (Click here to watch a video about growing perfect sunflowers.)


Heat-loving zinnias are one of the best annual cut flowers of summer.

You cannot have a cutting garden without tall zinnias (Zinnia elegans). The upright annuals come in lots of vivid colors. My favorites have ragged, cactus-like blooms that stand out in arrangements, among others. The many colorful zinnia blends from Renee’s Garden Seeds are all excellent. (Raggedy Anne Mix can’t be beaten.) They come in color combos to suit almost anyone and bloom nonstop, with deadheading

Zinnias are easy to start from seed. Just clear out some good ground in late spring, sprinkle the seeds, cover them lightly with peat moss, and keep them moist. They should sprout in no time for an instant cutting garden.

Flower Cutting and Arranging Technique

I am so glad to have this section covered by a video, generously created by the award-winning floral designer, Jennie Love of Love n’ Fresh Flowers. Please watch it for a very simply how-to for creating the perfect summer bouquet. Then make the most of your cut flowers until the last bloom has been taken by frost.

Growing Perfect Garden Peonies

‘Coral Charm’ has beautiful peachy coral flowers. (Image by Jessie Keith)

It’s time to plant peonies! Nothing says spring like a garden full of bright, beautiful peonies (Paeonia spp.). Their big, fragrant flowers are great for cutting and come in shades of red, pink, white and yellow and may be single, semi-double, or double. The plants themselves are resilient and can live as long as 100 years or more. This is why established clumps of these old-fashioned garden flowers often exist around old homes.

First cultivated in China, where an estimated 41% or the world’s species reside, peonies have been the object of adoration for nearly 4000 years. There are hundreds of variable woody and herbaceous varieties for the garden. All are long-lived and wonderfully beautiful in their own right.

Herbaceous Peonies

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' JaKMPM
Double-flowered varieties like ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ should be staked to keep their flowers from flopping. (Image by Jessie Keith)

Common garden peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are the classic herbaceous peonies found in American gardens. The large, bushy plants produce loads of big, late-spring flowers that are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8. Caging or staking is recommended for double-flowered varieties because weak stems often cause the flowers to flop to the ground in heavy rains. Through summer, these perennials are not very attractive, so it’s best to plant other pretty garden flowers around them for continued seasonal interest. In winter, herbaceous peonies die all the way to the ground and old stems should be cut back.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Gold Rush' JaKMPM
‘Gold Rush’ is a classic Japanese-type peony. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

Herbaceous peonies have many flower forms other than standard single, semi-double, and double types. Bomb peony flowers have a big round puff or “bomb” of petals, and Japanese- and anemone-peony flowers have golden puffs of color at the center of the blooms.

Exceptional varieties include the single, clear-pink-flowered ‘Pink Dawn’, the classic pale double pink ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, the semi-double, peachy coral ‘Coral Charm’, and the white and pale yellow, Japanese-flowered ‘Gold Rush’.

Tree Peonies

Double, red-flowered tree peonies in full bloom. (Image by Jesse)

The spare, shrubby habits of tree peonies don’t impress, but the spectacular flowers they produce are some of the biggest and best around. Blooms can reach up to 10” across and come in shades of white, pink, and purplish red as well as burnished yellows and corals. Flowers burst forth from late spring to early summer for a period of around two weeks. Grow them in full sun to partial shade.

Plants are slower growing than herbaceous peonies, and their branches can be brittle, so it is important to protect them from the wind. Even though most are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 4, their buds can be damaged by frost—another reason to plant them in a protected spot.

Great varieties include the American Peony Society Gold Medal Winner ‘Age of Gold’, which has huge golden blooms—often with more than one flower per stem—and reaches 5 feet in height. The semi-double, pink-flowered ‘Hana Kisoi’ is another garden classic that blooms in May and originates from Japan. The brilliant white-flowered ‘Phoenix White’ bears enormous single flowers, grows relatively quickly and will add sparkle to partially shaded gardens.

Intersectional Hybrid Peonies

Paeonia 'America' JaKMPM
‘America’ is a wonderful magenta-red intersectional peony. (Image by Jessie Keith)

Intersectional (Itoh) peonies are crosses between tree and herbaceous peonies, and they offer the best characteristics of both. Their big flowers tend to be more like those of tree peonies, but they have herbaceous habits. They bloom in late spring and have stronger stems than standard herbaceous peonies, so staking is not needed.

Itoh peonies were first bred in Japan in the 1960s. Since then lots of stellar varieties have come to the market. Choice varieties include the single, magenta-red ‘America’, the semi-double lemonade colored ‘Bartzella’, and the award-winning ‘Garden Treasure’, which has semi-double flowers of palest tangerine.

Growing Peonies

All peonies flower best in full, bright sunlight, though tree peonies can take partial shade. Tree peonies should be protected from strong winds and harsh winter exposure, and double-flowered herbaceous peonies must be staked or caged if you want to keep their flowers off of the ground.

Plant new peonies in early spring or fall. Rich garden soil with a neutral pH is best. Soil that is too acid or too alkaline can cause nutrient deficiencies and result in leaf chlorosis (yellowing between the leaf veins). Before planting new peonies, amend the garden soil with fortifying Black Gold Garden Soil. Established peonies can be mulched in spring with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. Plant the roots just below the soil surface. If you plant them too deeply, this can inhibit flowering. Small peony starts may take a year or two before reaching full bloom. Feeding peonies in early spring will support flowering and foliage health.

Large herbaceous peony clumps can be divided in fall. Just be sure to dig the large, fleshy roots deeply, and gently cut new divisions from the parent plant. Mulch new plantings lightly and water them well.

Globe-shaped peony buds attract ants, but the insects won’t damage the flowers. They simply feed on the sweet juices surrounding the unopened petals. Before cutting the flowers for indoor arrangements, just be sure to brush off any lingering ants.

When peonies are in full bloom, they look so impressive! And, you can be sure that they will remain in your garden for years to come, offering lots of sweet-smelling blooms for cutting and enjoyment.

The pink peony 'Monsieur Jules Elie' has bomb-type flowers. (Image by Jessie Keith)
The pink herbaceous peony ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’ has bomb-type flowers. (Image by Jessie Keith)

All About Growing Dahlias

Dahlia ‘Park Princess’

Dahlias come in all forms, from monolithic 12” dinnerplate monsters to tiny 2” pixie pincushion blooms, and colors—pretty much any shade except for true blue. So, you can never love just one. They thrive in the cooler seasons of early summer and fall and offer a botanical extravaganza of floral beauty with over 50,000 named cultivars and 20 wildly diverse forms. (Visit the American Dahlia Society (ADS) website to learn more.) Some are compact and perfect for containers while others are eight-foot monsters. All are wonderful and distinct in their own right.

Dahlia 'Mark Lockwood' - Copy
Dahlia ‘Mark Lockwood’

Dahlia Origins

The dahlias we grow in our gardens are hybrids of three high-altitude Mexican species, Dahlia coccinea, D. pinnata, and D. rosea, which were first collected in 18th-century Mexico and first cultivated in Mexico City under the care of the Spanish botanist, Vicente Cervantes (1755 – 1829). They were exported to the Royal Gardens of Madrid, Spain, in 1789, and began to appear in gardens across European shortly after. They popularized in the middle of the Victorian era (1850s-1860s), and by the early 1900s, there were thousands of varieties available across Europe and North America.

Dahlia 'Show 'N' Tell' - Copy
Dahlia ‘Show ‘N’ Tell’

Hybridizers come up with new dahlias each year. Many home gardeners prefer compact, heavy flowering border dahlias that don’t need staking. Five great performers recommended by Steve Nowotarski, the head of the ADS border dahlia trials, recommends the following three varieties: the party-pink decorative ‘Melody Pink Allegro’,  peppermint-striped ‘Princess Paige’, and magenta cactus-flowered ‘Pinot Noir’. For cutting, taller, long-stemmed varieties are best, such as the vibrant red and yellow ‘Show N’ Tell’, classic pink cactus-flowered ‘Park Princess’, and ‘Mark Lockwood’ with its lavender pincushion blooms.

Dahlia 'Taratahi Ruby'2 - Copy
Dahlia ‘Taratahi Ruby’

Growing Dahlias

Due to their cool, high-altitude origins, these sun-loving garden flowers grow best when weather is cool and humidity is moderate to low. When days are warm and nights are cool, they bloom and grow best. There is no real trick to getting their soil right. Like many plants, they excel in slightly acid to neutral, friable, organic-rich soil with very good drainage. Planting contained specimens in quality potting soil, such as OMRI-Listed Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil with RESiLIENCE®, or heavily amending in-ground plantings with Black Gold Garden Compost, will ensure great rooting conditions. Keep the soil lightly moist, not wet, and feed flowering plants with a low-nitrogen fertilizer formulated for flowers.

Many dahlias are tall and require support—low tomato cages are perfect. Caging offers tall, large-flowered varieties needed support during heavy rains and wind –keeping top-heavy plants from toppling. Shorter varieties are easiest to tend as they don’t require support. All plants, tall or short, should be deadheaded regularly to keep new blooms coming until frost.

Tall dahlias staked in a tomato cage.
Tall dahlias staked in a tomato cage.

Overwintering Dahlias

Dahlias are tender perennials able to survive winters in USDA hardiness zone 8. In colder zones, their tuberous roots must be dug and stored indoors through winter. Dig dahlias after their tops wilt following the first light frost. When digging tubers, keep then intact and be careful not to damage their necks as this is where next year’s buds will appear. Gently clean and dry the tubers before storing them. Pack in a dry peat/vermiculite mix and store in a cool, dry basement, garage or root cellar no colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the threat of frost is past, plant again in spring to a depth of four to six inches. In cool weather, refrain from watering tubers directly after planting to avoid tuber rot. On hot summer days, be sure to water them regularly and provide potted specimens with shade during the hottest times of the day. Care for them well, and you will have wonderful garden color and cut flowers, even during the hotter days of the month.

Another great perk about dahlias is their value. These beautiful garden flowers are very reasonably priced. Swan Island Dahlias is a great one-stop-shop for hundreds of fantastic varieties befitting any garden. Plant a few this year and after one season, you will be hooked!

Dahlia 'Wheels' - Copy
The collarette Dahlia ‘Wheels’.

Everblooming Bedding Plants for Heat and Drought

Two Zinnias, ‘Macarenia’ and ‘Mazurkia’ , comprise the bright, heat-wise Sasiando Mix. (Photo care of National Garden Bureau)

Finding garden flowers that bloom effortlessly through the hot, dry summer months can be a challenge for those new to gardening. So many popular bedding plants are tender and water needy. Impatiens, coleus, dahlias and even petunias will quickly flag when the heat and drought ramps up. But, have no fear. Lots of bedding plants will make it through the worst of the summer weather. Some even shine—blooming effortlessly all summer long.

National Garden Bureau Agastache-Arizona-Sun
Arizona Sun is one tough, pretty bedding plant that offers continuous color and attracts hummingbirds. (Photo care of National Garden Bureau)

When choosing “hot” summer flowers, I like to think of their origins. Resilient selections come from sultry climates, like Mexico, Africa, the American South, and hot, dry regions in the Mediterranean. They’re adapted to hot weather. Agastache, angelonia, cuphea, salvia, marigolds, and zinnias are several excellent choices. Exciting varieties are generated each year, making it easy to fill the garden with beautiful flowers sure to shine.

Hummingbird Mint

Hummingbirds love the sunny flowers of agastache (otherwise known as hummingbird mint) and the blooms shine through summer in containers or garden beds. They’ve been a standby in my garden for the last 20 years because they are so beautiful, fragrant and easy. Many new resilient varieties make gardening and crafting colorful flower combos easier than ever. The new Agastache Arizona™ Sun and Arizona™ Sandstone, with their gold and soft orange blooms and foot-high statures, will bloom through hot, dry weather and mix well with many similarly tough garden flowers. Though hybrids, the parent plants originate from the American Southwest—a testament to their ability to take the heat.

The bright flowers of Cuphea Vermillionaire continue until frost. (Photo care of Proven Winners)


The Mexican native narrowleaf angelon (Angelonia angustifolia) produces snapdragon-like spikes of white, purple and pink flowers through summer months. Of these, the carefree bloomers in the Serena™ Series have won multiple awards (Mississippi Medallion Award, Dallas Arboretum FlameProof Award, Louisiana Super Plants Award) for their high performance and ability to stand up to summer heat. The breeders claim: “Plants grow up to 50% larger in Floridalike conditions.”

Firecracker Plant

Gardeners with large, sunny, South-facing beds should consider planting the big, bushy firecracker plant, Cuphea Vermillionaire™. New from Proven Winners, the bushy plants reach around two feet and become laden with lots of orange-red, tubular flowers that are a hummingbird mainstay. A strong tendency to rebloom until frost makes this a superb bedding plant as does its high tolerance to hot, dry weather.

Scarlet Sage

In late summer, I always rely on colorful scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea) to add bright garden color up until frost. And, these natives of the American South and Mexico are made for hummingbirds! The tall species gently self-sows, so I simply dig the seedlings and place them where I want them, but that doesn’t keep me from planting a few choice varieties as well. The AAS- and Fleuroselect-winning varieties in the Summer Jewel™ series are compact (reaching one and a half to two feet), bloom continuously, and come in shades of red, pink, and white.

NGB Salvia_SummerJewelWhite-AAS2015-2-crop
The award-winning Salvia Summer Jewels White is a great continuous bloomer for hot, dry places! (Photo care of the National Garden Bureau)


Once established, marigolds are made for summer with their nonstop flowers in flame colors. The tall, Garland Orange African marigold (Tagetes erecta ‘Garland Orange’) bears huge, long-stemmed flowers on strong, bushy plants less apt to topple over in the wind. Plants reach three feet, making them a great choice for colorful, back-of-the-border fillers.


There’s always a place in my garden for zinnias. Not only do they make great cut flowers, but newer varieties flower effortlessly with little deadheading (removal of old blooms). The new Sasiando mix, which comprises Zinnia ‘Macarenia’, with gold and orange double blooms, and ‘Mazurkia’, with ivory and red double blooms, attracts butterflies in a big show of flowers. Both are high performers in sweltering summer weather and their bushy plants reach two to three feet. Deadheading is not necessary but may keep plants looking prettier.

Plant a few of these water- and heat-wise plants and your flower garden will be smiling through even the most scorching days of summer, with moderate care and watering. Give them a boost with an OMRI Listed flower food and top-dress with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend and keep the sunny blooms and bouquets coming!

Sowing Cut Flowers For Fall

Sowing Cut Flowers for Fall - Jessie Keith
Think it’s too late to sow easy cut flowers for fall? It’s not. Fast and easy bloomers like cosmos, zinnias, cornflowers and compact sunflowers still have plenty of time to reach flowering and shine before frosts take them for the season. Early August is the ideal time for planting fall cut-flowers. Sow them directly into beds with rich, friable soil and gently cover with a light sprinkle of Black Gold Seedling Mix to a depth no greater than ¼ of an inch. This will ensure they get light, moist cover and germinate better. By late September you should be ready to cut and arrange your colorful new blooms.